Charity concerns over slashed funding

CHARITY bosses, who fear they will be swamped with people needing their help when community health services close, are today threatening legal action against NHS bosses who want to slash their funding.

CHARITY bosses, who fear they will be swamped with people needing their help when community health services close, are today threatening legal action against NHS bosses who want to slash their funding.

As health chiefs make plans to axe beds in community hospitals and close a number of mental health centres, voluntary organisations fear they will be left to pick up the pieces - despite having their own funding slashed.

Ian Hartley, chief executive of East Suffolk Mind, said: "At the same time as pushing more people towards our services, the mental health trust is going to cut our funding.

"They've told us, and other charities, that we should hand back five per cent of the funding they have given us for this year.

"We are considering legal action because we had an agreement for the year and now they are trying to break that."

Under proposals made by the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust, the Hollies garden centre, an inpatient ward and two clubhouses are currently under threat.

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Mr Hartley said: "If the clubhouses are not there where are people going to go?

"If they need help they are going to go to a GP, or if they get in to a crisis they will end up in hospital.

"Just the thought of these things not being there is enough to precipitate a crisis for some people."

Other Suffolk charities have also expressed fears about the extra demands that may be placed on them.

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Family Carers, said: "It is quite a scary situation especially for people who are caring for members of their family.

"Who's going to pick up the pieces when things aren't in place in the community? It will be family carers.

"As these sorts of services start to disappear we are going to be working with more and more families who are in crisis."

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said: "I'm really worried about the fact we seem to be losing services for local older people - they are the people who need them most.

"We have had so many phone calls from people who are really worried about what it's going to mean for them."

The PCTS and mental health trusts said they are not doing anything illegal by asking the charities make savings.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the east Suffolk health system, said: "As everyone knows, there is a very challenging financial situation facing the whole local healthcare system.

"All of the people we buy services from need to be involved in the achievement of a sustained financial recovery this year.

"The trusts are all publicly accountable and would not do anything that was against the law."

Do you work for a charity who could be affected? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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